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Britain builds ‘Active Citizens’ in Kano for peace in Nigeria

“Active Citizens” is a global network of community leaders developed by the British Council and local civil society partners in some countries which Nigeria is…

“Active Citizens” is a global network of community leaders developed by the British Council and local civil society partners in some countries which Nigeria is part of. The goal is to build understanding and trust between communities by establishing an enduring global network of community leaders who can work together to address global issues of the 21st century.

NOTORIOUS FOR ETHNO-RELIGIOUS CRISES  

Expectedly, the incessant ethno-religions crises in Jos and other states, especially in the north, became the reference point.

There was a blend of culture at the programme and that afforded the participants opportunity to know other cultures and appreciate them. The people also shared experiences and discussed how they can help in their own ways to forestall future carnage and build peace locally and globally.

The participants in the programme, who are called ‘Active Citizens’, cut across media practitioners, development workers, educationists, students, social workers and entrepreneurs among others.

  After the programme, which was held at Ni’ima Hotel, Kano, participants said they have improved their understanding of global issues through cross-cultural interactions and have broadened their international connections by joining a social network called ninge.com.

As envisaged in the concept of the programme, the participants have also developed a stronger sense of their own culture and identity through engagement with other cultures. Preparatory to the training programme, participants were requested to provide to the first round of training, a small memento, magazine cutting or article, to depict their pride in their community, country and continent.

During the programme, a night was spared for the participants to appreciate the culture of others, while at the same time, condemn some primitive cultural practices that are harmful to the people. While the programme coordinator, Ramatu Umar-Bako harped on the issue of maternal health, another participant argued that facial scarification practiced by her kinsmen was a bad practice that reduces one’s self-confidence.

The programme coordinator also shared her experience during the recent Jos crisis. In a scene reminiscent of an award winning film depicting the Rwandan genocide, Hotel Rwanda, she narrated how she was trapped in a Jos hotel with her ailing two-year old son. The streets were deserted, the hotel receptionists and other workers had fled, some guests bolted out of the hotel in fear of entrapment. She said it was by God’s providence that she escaped the mob.

She said the situation was enough reason for people to rise against violence in order to forestall future recurrence and for government to act decisively. According to her, displaced Nigerians suffering because of violence in various skirmishes deserve more attention and succour from Nigerians than they are getting.

 

PREVALENT DIVORCE IN THE NORTH

Other participants from the Northern part of the country decried how the prevalence of divorce was affecting the people, particularly the womenfolk. It was gathered that a village in Bebeji Local Government of Kano State, the villagers divorce one of their wives when they record a bumper harvest. In the village, young men marrying three wives are very common. So, once a villager got money from the farm produce, he simply divorces one of his wives with no provocation and replaces her with another one.

 

CO-EXISTING IN DIVERSITY

Participants in the training also had an increased knowledge and understanding of how their local community works and it links to the rest of the world, just as they learned how to take action to improve society through sustainable initiatives and also work effectively in a diverse environment.

“Active Citizens” uses international cultural relations to help tackle the major challenges facing communities. These include issues arising from differences in race, religion or culture, access to sustainable livelihoods, environmental pollution and protection, health and educational opportunities, democratic participation, social exclusion and opportunities for women.

The eloquent mentors of the “Active Citizens” programme, Umar Kawu and Ladi Wayi, have demonstrated to the participants how an established network of locally connected but globally conscious “Active Citizens” would promote and carry out dialogue and social action.

During the training sessions, participants were exposed to the concept of 4D Circle (Discovery, Dream Team, Design and Deploy), Soul Profile, the Dialoguing, the Eight Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry, among other things.  

Appreciative Inquiry, Umar Kawu said, “challenges the old adage that ‘people learn from their mistakes’. In fact we can help others learn and develop faster and more effectively by drawing on and remembering what went well rather than from our mistakes.”   

According to him, the experience of working with a variety of different organisations has shown that by focusing on people’s abilities and skills, people significantly increase their propensity to perform better. In a nutshell, the two goals of Appreciative Inquiry are to have responsibility to honour success and to learn best from what works.

“Active Citizens” is aimed at people who are socially responsible, influential and engaged at a local community level. This may include youth workers, women’s groups, educators, community development professionals, voluntary sector representatives and faith leaders. By creating an international network for these community leaders, it is hoped they will gain experiences that will then help them to be more effective in their own countries.

In 2009, the programme was designed to reach approximately 5000 people in 10 countries and 50 communities across the world. Participating countries are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan and the UK. However, more countries will become involved this year.

The programme will run in communities selected by the British Council and other partners and stakeholders throughout the world. The programme has an annual cycle of activities including: international seminars, training of trainers, local training of community members, international linking of community projects and international exchange visits.

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